Monday, February 25, 2013

In Memory of Robin

 Robin Hathaway wrote to vividly here of her remembrances, from childhood onward, of her time at the shore.  Many of our mystery writing colleagues are finding this blog an appropriate space to express their love of Robin and their regrets over her loss.  Here are musical and photographic inspirations of one of Robin's loves.  Click on the music and take a walk on the beach.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Remembering Robin

Robin Hathaway at Partners and Crime Booksellers,
April 8, 2008. Photo by Margaret Mendel

Robin and I weren't "girl-friends". We were fellow warriors, in similar but different foxholes.

She followed her star, I followed mine, but we were able to trade strengths where needed.

Our stars were different, but compatible.

We recognized each other's toughness, and though our personal paths were different, we sensed we both fought many of the same wars.

Early on, I championed her doctor books in my reviews for Marilyn Henderson's LADY M.

I could always count on Robin to deliver the goods.

I believe she knew I'd deliver for her too.

On my first trembling initiation seat as a member of the MWA-NY Board, Robin was there to welcome me.

I returned the favor with my positive reviews of her books.

She was always a generous, willing mentor to the Mentor Committee. If we needed another volunteer, Robin was always there for us!

To show her my gratitude, I concocted a fancy dummy prize for the Deadly Ink DAVID prize and gave her a little party at Juliano's to showcase the strange huge creation in public, having invited another Smith English Major to show the flag to please her!

Always ready to help, Robin joined Marge Mendel and me in preparing food for our mutual friend, Bob Knightly, for his book party at my place and the table was laden with food for an army!

A fellow animal lover, Robin often had us in stitches with stories about the wild life on her place on the Jersey Shore. I can still see the ducks and cats following her!

Sophisticated, highly-educated, Robin was always a plain, simple person, a lady, but never haughty or mean, a worker, but never domineering, a fiercely strong soul, but outwardly gentle.

Not long ago, we lunched at the Lex on Lexington East 91st Street, where she interviewed me about what I'd seen as a kid in WW2, for her current WIP. She took careful notes on the Nazi boxes I'd found on the Norfolk beach, the boyish German soldiers, ferried and bound on the Norfolk Naval Base, the blackout curtains tacked up over our windows at night on Chesapeake Bay.

I knew this was a hard book to write, even for her.

Robin, I hope you completed it, but, if you didn't, I hope you'll finish it from way up there, where I know you'll have tons of time now to create your lovely stories…

We'll miss you, but I believe firmly that good people on planet Earth have a good time in Eternity!

God bless, and thank you for your gifts while you made this brief stop down here on our little planet…

Thelma Jacqueline Straw

I met Robin Hathaway at the Mentor Program MWA put on at the Mystery Library on E. 47th St. years ago. She was on the dais as Poster Girl for the MWA Mentor Program, having had her novel, The Doctor Digs A Grave, bought by St. Martin’s as the Best First in the Contest. She always gave the credit to Eleanor Hyde, her Mentor, who stayed around and saw her through to publication. (Eleanor was always a very fine writer and generous friend.) Two of a kind.

But I remember Robin most from our infrequent face-to-face meetings in recent years. In 2011, I was invited to be on a mystery authors panel at the Mid-Atlantic Cultural Something-or-other Convention being held at a hotel in Philadelphia, Robin’s home town. My head turned by the high-sounding invitation, I mentioned it to Robin who offered me a bed in her home for the duration of my stay. I met her impressive, gracious husband, Dr. Bob Keisman.

As things panned out, the mystery authors made their excuses except for me so I was paired with three PhD adjunct Community College English teachers who all spoke on the potboiler novels of Mary Shelley. Well, actually they read their ‘papers’ to the audience of nine in a hotel room the size of a ‘studio’ with a hotplate in an SRO. Robin was there and taking notes (I swear). I’ll always remember that.

Bob Knightly

Click here to see Robin's obituary on

Monday, February 18, 2013


Our own beloved Robin Hathaway passed away on Saturday after a moderately long illness. She was so sweet-natured that I never knew anybody who didn't like her. A kind and generous friend, devoted to her husband, daughters, and grandchildren, and devoted to writing, she wrote all her life long, though she didn't begin to get published until she won the St. Martin’s Malice Domestic Best Traditional First Mystery Competition for THE DOCTOR DIGS A GRAVE in 1997, at an age when most people are thinking of retiring. Her books are great fun.

Her posts for The Crime Writers' Chronicle were great fun too. Here's one of my favorites, the post from January 24, 2011, in which she passes the baton to the next generation.

Kate Gallison

First Book Signing

Not mine. My seven-year-old grandson, Luke’s. Last spring he had written a “chapter book” for school, entitled “Iron Man.” It had nine chapters and was even illustrated. Some highlights — a trip to the “Iron Cream Store” to buy “iron cream cones” and a gift of a zebra who wasn’t “potty-trained.” I was so taken with his tale that I rashly promised to publish it.

Luke was thrilled and gave me his manuscript. Weeks went by, then months, until one day I received a polite email from his mother (my daughter) reminding me of my promise. It seems the author was getting restless. Chagrinned, I told his mother to tell Luke that it usually takes a year to publish a book, and got to work immediately.

I typed the manuscript in 14 pt type and added a dedication: “To Mom, Dad and Maddie (his sister) with love,” and an “About the Author” section at the back, describing Luke’s seven year life, plus a photo of him in his Little League uniform. Then I took his full-color illustrations to a copy-store to copy. Being mechanically challenged (I have probably destroyed millions of dollars worth of equipment in my life) I had to ask an employee to help me. With copies in hand I went home, got out my light table (a relic from a former stint in the graphic arts), scissors and rubber cement, and began the paste-up. (I know, I know, nobody does that anymore. But I don’t have a scanner, and even if I did, I probably wouldn’t know how to work it. I had to fall back on my ancient skills.)

Once the paste-up was done, I took it back to the copy-shop and told them I would like four volumes of the book printed and bound with hard covers. This posed a problem. A hardcover binding can’t be done with less than 1 ¼ inches of paper. Luke’s book was only one inch wide. Sensing my consternation, the young woman, whose name was Erika, suggested I allot a whole page to each illustration, instead of bundling them in with the text. “That might make up the difference,” she said.

Back to the light table. The next morning I took the revised paste-up to the store and told Erika I needed the bound volumes the next day. I was going to visit my daughter that weekend and Luke would be expecting his book. She promised they would be ready. But when I went to pick them up, there was a strange woman at the counter who couldn’t find my order and claimed she knew nothing about it. I panicked ! “Where is Erika?” I cried. The stranger said to come back in an hour, when Erika would be back from lunch. I spent a miserable hour in a coffee shop imagining Luke’s disappointment. He has large, expressive, dark eyes. I was back at the shop on the dot of the hour. Wonder of wonders, Erika was there, brandishing four bound volumes of “Iron Man”! They were beautiful.

Would you like an inscription, or just my signature?

The books were received with all the enthusiasm I had expected, and Luke announced, his dark eyes dancing, that he would have a signing after dinner. (He knew all about signings, having attended some of mine.) Various relations gathered in the living room and Luke obligingly signed the four books--one for his parents, one for each set of grandparents, and one for an aunt and uncle. He even held a question and answer session afterward. One relation asked the author if he outlined. With a puzzled expression, he said, “What’s an outline?”

Exactly my sentiments. He must be a chip off the old block.

Robin Hathaway

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Julia Pomeroy: Actress, Restaurateur, Author

Yesterday I listened to Julia describe how she lost her publisher as her second series mystery, COLD MOON HOME, was about to hit the streets. Her first, THE DARK END OF TOWN, from the defunct Carroll & Graf, got fine reviews and decent sales, but alas as we all know… Julia and I are fellow Mavens of Mayhem, the Upstate Hudson Valley branch of Sisters In Crime (SinC). After a suitable period of mourning, she came to appreciate the new-found freedom, she said, beginning her first thriller, NO SAFE GROUND, the protagonists a pair of middle-aged men residing in the Hudson Valley region of Columbia County. The male point-of-view is new for Julia, whose series heroine Abbe Silvernale waitressed while solving crimes in the fictional upstate Town of Bantam, not unlike where Julia and her family reside and once owned a restaurant. Julia Pomeroy is, from my innocent male perspective, a Woman of the World, having lived in Japan, Somalia and Italy, where her dad’s job as a Foreign Service Officer took them. On returning to the U.S., she became a Hollywood actress, among other things. NO SAFE GROUND is out this month from Five Star.

Robert Knightly


I was on a panel this last Saturday, the topic: Food in Crime Fiction. Actually, it was called Murder Most Fowl and it was part of the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference in Manhattan. When I was asked, I thought, what do I know about food in mysteries? And do I care? My new standalone thriller, coming out this weekend, has some raw meat, a couple of cheeseburgers and some burnt spaghetti sauce in it.

My fellow panelists were to be Katherine Hall Page, who writes a wonderful series about a caterer; Marilyn Stasio, reviewer for the NYT, who has probably read more crime fiction than a Bouchercon banquet-load of fans; and your own Annamaria Alfieri, who is of Italian blood, and therefore gets a special papal dispensation to talk about food. My claim to food is that I once owned a small town restaurant, and my protagonist, in my first two books, is a waitress in a similar small town restaurant.

The day before the panel, the big storm Nemo blew into town, and on Saturday Katherine couldn't get out of Massachusetts. Annamaria, jet lagged from three weeks in Italy but still game, showed up. I came, nervous and feeling highly unqualified. Finally, Marilyn and the moderator arrived, and we began.

Luckily Bruce Kraig, our moderator, (who has written a tabletop book on hotdogs!) had asked us to prepare talks about our books and the food in them. Marilyn Stasio, thank God, went first. She had done her homework and read a bucket of food-related mysteries. She had wonderful points to make about food and its uses in crime fiction. Food used well and food used poorly. She talked about dozens of writers and she was lucid and interesting, and after a particularly stirring question or comment by one of the audience, she stopped and said, "I should write an article about this."

Then it was my turn. I explained my train of thought as I had prepared for the panel. I mentioned my two first books briefly, and how I'm more interested in the restaurant as a theatre-like setting, with front of the house and back of the house, than I am in the food. And that I rarely think about food or remember food in the novels I like. What does Harry Bosch eat? Nothing. At least, nothing memorable. Maybe a taco from a street vendor. But what does that say about an obsessive driven detective? When you think about it, quite a lot.

I told the audience how I delved into the internet, digging around to see what other people thought about food in mysteries. Someone described food, in the classic mysteries, as a sign of elitism in characters like Nero Wolfe, Maigret and Poirot. Not a bad point. There was definitely a class distinction in those books. Also, food as death! Think of all the poisonings in Agatha Christie. Roald Dahl's famous story, Lamb to the Slaughter, about a woman who beats her husband's head in with a frozen leg of lamb, then serves it, roasted, to the detectives.

Which made me think, if it can represent death, then isn't food in fiction something like sex in fiction? Both should work to enhance character, setting or conflict, and shouldn't feel artificially stuck on.

Finally, Annamaria gave a wonderful explanation of how food in historical mysteries works to place the reader in the writer's world, reminding him/her, through the description of particular food, of that time and place. And it also makes the protagonist truly human, with mouth, gullet and stomach, just like the rest of us mortals.

And then it was over. The time had flown by.

As I write this, I think once again about my new thriller, and what part, if any, food plays in it. And it just comes to me that, yes, when it's there, food in my story is about family. Safety. Even if it's just a simple spaghetti sauce.

So, even though I have never thought of myself as someone who writes about food, I learned that I was wrong. We all are, us crime fiction writers. Either through inclusion or omission, we are all food writers too. And that's what I got from going to a cookbook conference. Life's funny that way, isn't it?

Julia Pomeroy

Friday, February 15, 2013

Once More Into the Breach, Dear Friends

I'm starting another story.

Yes, folks, in the very teeth of a storm of public indifference I'm taking keyboard in hand to create yet another fictional world, yet another collection of somehow complimentary characters, yet another set of astounding circumstances that will throw them all into conflict, keeping the reader in nail-biting suspense right up to the ultimate, satisfying conclusion.

Not useful
Maybe it will be a novel. Maybe it will be a short story, which I can shop around without the help of my agent, who takes so long, so very long to read my work. Maybe it will be another historical. Maybe it will take place in the twenty-first century, an era I have no particular fondness for. (How could I have dared to bring a child into this world? But I digress.)

The point of this fevered screed—quite literally fevered; I'm having trouble shaking a bronchial infection—the point of it is that I have a new system. Beverly Graves Meyers invented it. She described it in a blog post last week for (The Poisoned Pen Press). It's quite a bit more useful, and I think more successful as far as encouraging output goes, than those formulas I used to pass on for torturing your plot into general acceptability, such as Save the Cat. I've broken her system down into bullet points, herewith:

  • A three-hole punch
  • For each novel, a three-ring binder (an old used one from college will do)
  • As many sets of dividers as necessary
  • Three-ring punched plastic pockets with zippers


…And, of course, your computer and printer. Then, everything you find in your research or the bubblings of your imagination goes in the binder, labeled, on the outside, Marvelous New Novel or whatever your working title might be.

Just inside the front cover:

  • A calendar for the novel's time line (Google "perpetual calendar" and pillage at will)
  • Master list of characters
  • Master list of settings, if helpful

After that, the dividers, labeled appropriately:

  • Characters (with sub-dividers, one for each character)
  • Settings
  • Background on main plot points
  • Clues (sometimes)

For each character:

  • A summary of the character's physical characteristics and life events, worked up last, but put right behind the divider
  • A photo or painting approximating the character
  • Your notes on this person's history and personality
  • Printed articles on the character's profession or hobbies
  • Any little squibs and bits you might want to put in one of your plastic pockets

For each setting, your own notes, similarly, plus anything useful you found while doing research. The plastic pockets are good for maps.

Behind the Plot Point divider, whatever you might find helpful. The contents of the pockets include, but are not limited to, those notes you made on the cocktail napkin at Bouchercon.

So there you have it. I'm off to write The Next Big Thing. You may do the same. May the best man keep his desk in order. Oh, yes, and find a publisher.

Kate Gallison

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Favorite Typos of All Time

Some people come into this world nicely dominant in their left brains and therefore neurologically prepared to spell well and find typos at a glance.  I am not one of those.  I am right-handed and right-footed, but left-eyed: therefore stumped by spelling and blind to bumbled typing.

Sister Mary Catharine O’Connor, who taught me creative writing, had two PhD’s from Columbia University—one in English Literature and one in Education.  Her short stories were published in The New Yorker.  She was brilliant and uncompromising.  When we handed in a paper, she required us to write “Proofread” on the cover page and sign our names.  And if she found a fourth typo in the paper, she stopped reading, and no matter what it contained, the paper would never get an “A.”  She despaired of me.  I still have the dictionary she gave me in 1961, out of that desperation.  I revere her memory.  But nothing she did could unscramble my brain and make me good at seeing my own mistakes.

Those were the days of Olivetti portables and no spell check.

My most inconvenient mistake came, not in school, but in an article I wrote while working in the training department of a Wall Street bank.  I had devised a program to recruit women from the welfare rolls, to teach them skills that would qualify them for jobs in the bank, and to get them on their way to supporting themselves and their families.  The banking community took an interest in the work, and I was asked to write an article describing it for an industry newspaper.  As published the article contained only one wrong letter—a “w” instead of “t.”  What I meant to say was “This program is not available to the public.”   Except that it came out “now available.”  Thousands of phone calls later. . .

Writing on a computer with spell check has improved matters measurably, but perfection still escapes me, as regular readers of this blog have undoubtedly noticed, to my great embarrassment.
My consolation is that I am not alone in this impairment.  Typos have escaped into print in books.  My favorite is in the first edition of Bubbles, the autobiography of Beverly Sills.  Knowing how I loved the opera and admired Ms. Sills, my mother-in-law gave me a copy one Christmas.  The first line reads, “I was only three years old the first time I sang in pubic.”

This past week, I have been proofreading (with trepidation) the first pass pages of Blood Tango, set to launch on June 25th.  I am probably missing some things, but luckily I caught a typo (not mine but the typesetters’ I am happy to say) that is potentially as embarrassing as the one in Beverly Sills’s book.  In this case an “r” has been substituted for an “s.”  Just one letter!  Near the bottom of page 15, a paragraph begins, “But Tulio Puglisi knew in his boner that stopping Evita. . .” 

These are my favorites.  Tell us yours.

Annamaria Alfieri 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jenny Milchman, Living Proof Wonderful Things Can Happen

Rarely have the mystery communities so wrapped their various arms around a new writer as these last months they embraced verbally Jenny Milchman, a young crime writer from the great state of New Jersey!

Yes, Jenny, there IS a reward for perseverance!

I've been watching with awe for months the generous communal embrace of Jenny Milchman – on Dorothy L, Murder Must Advertise, Sisters in Crime – the generous adoption of this novelist.

Hundreds of mystery writers have cheered her on, in word, thought or prayer.

As Americans, we admire our comrades who show they are gutsy enough to keep-on-keeping-on. Through the wind, the rain, the snow, the ice, the storms life often throws our way.

Jenny, we're proud to know you and we all wish you success with Cover of Snow – and – all the books waiting to be released from your talented brain.

Folks and friends of Crime Writers Chronicle, I just finished Cover of Snow – and bygolly, all those First Rate Writers who gave praise on the back cover – they all recognize a Fellow Hitter Out of the Ball Park!!

Welcome to the gang, Writer Milchman!

Thelma Straw

P.S. Marilyn Stasio in her NYT Review today praises Jenny Milchman's COVER OF SNOW! Congratulations, Jenny - you really hit the ball out of the park!

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

Begins with just one step, according to a great Chinese philosopher. This was about as true as it gets when it came to my publishing journey.

This past January 15th my debut novel, Cover of Snow, came out. The moment arrived after thirteen years, fifteen-almost offers from editors, three agents, and eight novels. Cover of Snow is my debut novel, but it wasn’t the first one I wrote.

That first novel was an 180,000 word utterly unpublishable behemoth—although no one could’ve told me that. I thought it was wonderful, perfect, don’t change a single comma.

It was 1998, query letters were sent by snail mail, and I was backing up on floppy disks.

(Actually, I still back up on floppy disks, but that’s for another blog post.)

If Lao Tzu’s quote is true, what was the first step I took? How did I wind up writing eight novels before I finally sold The One?

I had always wanted to be a writer, but during my sophomore year of college, my decidedly non-directive parents asked me how my vocation would result in bills getting paid. I didn’t have much of an answer besides some hand-waving about writing poetry and living in a log cabin, so I decided to go to graduate school in psychology.

By 1998, I was working as a psychologist-in-training at a rural mental health center. Suddenly my life was like something out of a suspense novel. I was treating a cherubic blond child who’d just happened to kill the family pet; another patient took a gun out during group therapy and threatened to shoot herself.

All of a sudden it hit me that while I’d written a lot of poetry and quasi-Victorian novellas while studying English Lit, what I really loved to read was suspense and crime fiction. That was a watershed moment for me—to realize that I could (and should) write the kind of book I decompressed with in bed every night.

I began my first novel, and the words just poured out of me. 180,000 of them, as I’ve mentioned. I was wedded to every single one, and with the arrogance of the green, never-rejected writer, I began sending out query letters.

I was lucky enough to get responses, including one single-spaced, packed sheet of paper (snail mail, remember?) from Jonathan Kellerman’s agent. Among other things he said that he didn’t like spending so much time in my “neurotic protagonist’s head.”

“What the hey?” I thought. “My protagonist isn’t neurotic.”

I was stung because, in the way of most semi-autobiographical first novels, my protagonist was an awful lot like, well, me.

After I received this rejection, I sat down at my non-internet-enabled computer and looked at the novel again. And I saw why the agent thought my protagonist was neurotic, and I saw what I could do. I cut 60,000 previously essential words in just two weeks.

That novel—however trimmed down—didn’t get published, but it did earn me offers of representation. And so began the next ten years of my life when I was on more or less continuous submission. At a certain point, I said to myself, “Well, published writers write a book a year, and I want to be a published writer, so I’m going to try and do that.” At the very least, it would give me more chances to write something someone might like.

I wrote eight novels in eleven years, slowing down some when I had two babies. I had to switch agents twice because after representing two or three projects, getting close without getting to puff on any cigars, it’s usually better for an author and agent to part ways. Success often depends on a new set of contacts, or a certain scent of freshness.

This wasn’t the case with my eighth novel, though.

I had been working for three years with the agent I now call my forever agent. We were about out of options. My seventh novel had climbed all the way up to the publisher at the helm of the house that was considering it, only to be turned down at the very top.

My agent had said to me, “I am your agent. No matter how you publish, even if it’s with the smallest of presses, no real money to be had, you can count on me.”

At the same time, the world had changed. Self-publishing had become a viable option. It had become in some ways, for some writers, a better option even.

But it wasn’t a better option for me.

At this stage of the game, self-publishing precludes or at least sorely limits a writer’s entrance into bookstores and libraries, and for me that was a huge part of trying to publish, as opposed to simply penning stories in my garret. I had this dream of meeting readers and booksellers and librarians all over the country.

I had come to admire many authors during my long road, and one had written a novel in 2010 that particularly spoke to me. She knew about my many near misses, and although she had told me, quite understandably, that she couldn’t read unpublished manuscripts, at a certain point she agreed to take a look at my latest.

It was during the early dark of a January evening, just after my agent had made her forever pledge, when this author sent me an email.

“Jenny,” it said. “I couldn’t wait to tell you how much I am enjoying your book. If it doesn’t let me down at the end—and I can’t imagine that it will—I will want not only to offer you a blurb or endorsement, but to put it into my own editor’s hands.”

That editor turned out to like my book as much as her author did.

And that is how I finally came to be published.

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a step so far back, it’s sometimes hard even to remember. But if we keep walking, we will come to the right place.

At long last, my book has just been published. It’s time to take the first steps on my next 1,000 mile journey.

Jenny Milchman is a suspense novelist from New Jersey whose short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Adirondack Mysteries II, and in an e-published volume called Lunch Reads. Jenny is the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, and the chair of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program. Her first novel, Cover of Snow, is published by Ballantine.

Jenny can be reached at and she blogs at

Friday, February 8, 2013


The head cold that has been all over Lambertville got on me last week and promptly relocated to my chest as a case of bronchitis. Man. I haven’t had bronchitis since I was twenty, when I still smoked cigarettes. It feels strange. Besides the coughing it comes with a fever, addling the brain, sapping the energy, causing me to forget what I’m even doing here.

A few weeks ago PBS ran a special on Paul Simon and how he went to South Africa back in the eighties, in the days of apartheid, and hired some local bands to come to a studio and jam with him. Their mutual inspiration resulted in Simon’s hit album Graceland. I missed it the first time around. I remember You Can Call Me Al, a great number, but the other songs I missed. So I bought the album from ITunes just before I got sick.

And now it’s the only thing that will get me on my feet. It's true. These tunes will raise the dead. No sleep for three days, no appetite, hardly any reason to carry on at all, and yet these African jazz sounds get me up and dancing.

Check this one out. Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes. I defy you to sit still, I don't care what shape you're in.

Kate Gallison

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Crime Writer in Italy: Week Three--AH, Roma

 Words are unnecessary to tell the glory of Rome.  The pictures below will give you a tiny taste.  But I will tell you a story at the end--a very brief and funny one.  In the meanwhile all you need to do is look a these:

Church View

The River Nile
Here's the story I learned in school:  In the center of the Piazza Navona is Bernini's Baroque masterpiece, the Fountain of the Four Rivers.  Evidently, there had been a competition to build the Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, which you see in the church view above.  Bernini entered the competition, but the commission was given instead to his rival Borromini.  Bernini was asked instead to design and sculpt a fountain for the center of the piazza.  The statue representing the river Nile faces the church.  If you look carefully, in the center of the church view you can see the statue's hand raised.  The gesture is plain in the front view of the statue representing the River Nile.  Bernini's statue raises his hand to protect himself from the church when it falls down, since it was built by the winner of the competition who was, by Bernini's reckoning, an inferior architect!

When this blog goes up, we will be flying home.  It's been a cultural and culinary delight to be here.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Criminal Intent

Glenville Lovell grew up in Barbados where he developed a passion for stories which unfolded with the mystery of dreams. He is the author of a collection of stories: Going Home in Chains and four novels: Fire in the Canes and Song of Night (Soho Press); Too Beautiful to Die and Love and Death in Brooklyn (Penguin). His shorts stories are featured in several anthologies including Queens Noir and Best African-American Stories 2010.

I met Glenville when he spoke on an MWA Dinner panel eight years ago. Then I read his two novels with an African-American ex-cop PI protagonist, 'Too Beautiful To Die' and 'Love and Death In Brooklyn'. What I loved about the books were their setting in Caribbean Brooklyn, home turf of the West Indian Day Parade--an exotic, ever-lively event that I'd policed in the 1970s---and his hero who sounded and behaved like the NYPD undercover cop he'd been. I asked Glenville to give me a story for 'Queens Noir' and he didn't disappoint. Read "Out of Body," set in South Jamaica, Queens where he'd lived, and see for yourself.

Robert Knightly

One of the coolest things about being a published writer is getting to meet fans and readers at public events. I love talking readers and fans anywhere I can. And writers will agree that we get all kinds of interesting question when we’re out promoting a book. One of the questions I often get when people discover that I was born on the beautiful island of Barbados is this: How does somebody who grew up on a peaceful island like Barbados get to write crime novels? What do you know about about killers and criminals? The first time I was lobbed this question I really didn’t have an answer, because I’d never contemplated how or why I became a writer of mystery novels. I mean, what exactly was the person asking? Ironically, the question came from a fellow writer who was born in Jamaica. I’ve gotten the question several other times since and now have a more studied response.

Yes, I grew up in rather idyllic surroundings: beautiful sunshine, friendly neighbors, daily breezes off the sea to cool hot heads and hearts. Murders were unheard of at the time. So what? Does that mean that nobody in my quiet village ever contemplated murder, ever contemplated waylaying a rival for a woman’s affection with the intent of ending the rivalry once and for all? C’mon! Isn’t it part of human nature whether we were born in the bowels of poverty and despair in some crummy inner city neighborhood, or in the lap of luxury in the loftiest tower in Manhattan, or dare I say it, in a quiet village in Paradise?

This was brought home quite forcibly to me in 1986. One cold January night I got a call from my sister that my youngest brother had been stabbed to death in Brooklyn. I traveled from my home in Manhattan to see my brother’s frozen body sprawled in the street. It was an eerie experience. I think I might’ve had an out-of-body experience at the time because I don’t remember having any emotions. I remember looking at the body, but it was as if another person had taken over my body.

I obsessed about my brother’s killer for about a year. My intent was to get rid of him one way or another. I didn’t care how. The police were dragging their feet making an arrest. The lead detective had too many cases on his hands. Everybody knew who the killer was, but none of the witnesses wanted to talk. I went to a friend of mine, a former marine marksman, and begged him to teach me about guns. He refused because he knew quite well what my intentions were. So, I was left to stew. I began to contemplate what forces had thrown my brother and his killer together to produce the result that left my family pondering whether moving from Barbados to New York had been a sound move. What would’ve gone through the killer’s mind before he stuck a 10 inch blade in my brother’s neck on a Brooklyn street? Why did he follow my brother out into the street instead of going off in the other direction? What was his real intention?

I began to work on a story called: When Blood Runs to Water, which I published many years later. As I delved into the background of my brother’s killer—who ironically had emigrated from Barbados like my brother—discovering that violence had swirled around him for a long time, I became more and more fascinated by how he and my brother ended up in a hazy basement room gambling together. And I became convinced that this guy would’ve killed someone at some point in his life.

Nowadays, whenever I sit down to write, I remember my brother. I remember how I wanted to know as much about his killer as I could. I remember my quest to understand what forces threw them together that night. I remember the disgust and disillusionment of the lead detective on the case. One of the joys of writing crime fiction is that you get to use character to offer insight into the social, political and moral climate around you. And in the end, you catch the bad guys.

(Aside: It’s sort of ironic that when I began to write crime novels, the name of my hero turned out to be Blades Overstreet.)

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Pork Rib Jambalaya

At the end of a depressing week where everyone in the house came down with colds and racking coughs (not flu! Not flu!) and the internet was full of stories about the futility of a career in genre fiction, there's only one thing left for a girl to do.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

To that end I am offering herewith my recipe for Cajun pork rib jambalaya.

2 lbs boneless country pork ribs, cut in 2 inch pieces
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp Tabasco sauce

Mix seasonings with meat. Heat in a heavy pot

1 tbsp cooking oil

Fry the meat, stirring, until browned on all sides. Remove the meat. Put in the hot oil

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

Cook until soft and golden, scraping up the browned meat bits. Add

1/2 cup chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, peeled

Cook 5 minutes. Add

1 cup seeded and chopped bell peppers

Cook 2 or 3 minutes more. Return rib meat to the pot, and add

3/4 cup canned seeded and chopped tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth

Cook, covered, 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. Stir in

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions (green and white parts)
3 cups raw long-grain white rice

Cook, covered, until the rice is done, 25-30 minutes. Add more Tabasco if desired.  Serve.

Kate Gallison